President Trump marked the 17th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks with a visit Tuesday to the Pennsylvania site where courageous passengers brought down the fourth plane, preventing it from being used in a strike on Washington.
“A piece of America’s heart is buried on these grounds but in its place has grown a new resolve to live our lives with the same grace and courage as the heroes of Flight 93,” Mr. Trump said, calling their decision to fight back against the hijackers a turning point for the nation.
At the Pentagon, where one of the other four planes did strike, Vice President Mike Pence grieved with victims’ families, saying that while the whole country suffered that day, “we know you bear a special burden.”
In New York, the city held its annual commemoration at the memorial where the World Trade Center towers used to stand, hosting a reading of the names of nearly 3,000 victims of the attacks.
But on a day of somber remembrance, Mr. Trump highlighted the heroes who emerged in the rescue and recovery efforts — and particularly the 40 passengers and crew aboard Flight 93, who after hearing about the other attacks, forced their plane down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to prevent it from becoming a fourth missile perhaps headed toward the Capitol.
“At that moment they took their fate and America’s fate back into their own hands,” Mr. Trump said.
Standing not far from the spot where the plane crashed into the ground, he said the memorial sends the message that “America will never ever submit to tyranny.”
While Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence touted the American might that stood out that day in the face of tragedy and fear, national security officials warned that the U.S. is still in danger, 17 years later.
FBI Director Christopher A. Wray warned that the terrorism threat is still present and has even expanded with the rise of social media, allowing networks to recruit and deploy lone wolf attackers and homegrown violent extremists.
“Terrorism today moves at the speed of social media,” Mr. Wray told CBS’s “This Morning” program.
About a fifth of the FBI’s 5,000 terrorism-related investigations involved potential homegrown suspects, he said.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a similar warning in a speech at a Justice Department, where he reminded the country that there are active terrorism investigations in all 50 states.
He praised the department for prosecuting terrorists and said the country has managed to prevent another attack on the same scale as the 2001 hijackings.
He warned, however, that the work was not done. Mr. Sessions described that today’s technology made it possible for sympathizers to connect across the globe, “in a matter of seconds.”
“They can plot attacks that can be carried out in a matter of hours,” he said, “And so — now more than ever — we have to stay one step ahead of the terrorists at all times. After all, they only have to succeed once. We have to succeed every time.”
⦁ Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.
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